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The Washington Capitals Will Win Again, Probably

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Never tell me the odds... okay, maybe just this once

Photo by Clyde Caplan/clydeorama.com

With the dull thud of the puck being slammed into Jonas Hiller's right leg pad from close range followed immediately by the horn to end regulation, Caps fans felt that all-too-familiar sense of dread creep back into their respective minds, guts and other assorted internal organs.

The streak was going to five, wasn't it?

Sure enough, it did.

Losing streaks happen, of course, even to good teams (something this Caps squad might actually be, believe it or not). And, to be sure, this one feels more dire because it's the first week of November and not February.

Or maybe this one feels more dire because of just how unlikely it's been, given the games themselves. And we're not even talking about the Caps' possession dominance over this span (how does a five-on-five Corsi-For percentage of 54 in close situations not yield at least one win?), but rather the scoreboard.

We mentioned yesterday that the Caps have had a lead in the second period or later in each of these five games and have come away with just one point. Total.

What're the odds?

Well, glad you asked.

We've mentioned win probability every now and again and now we're talking about it again. Here, via Rink Stats, are the Caps' win probability graphs for each game in the current streak:

Losing Streak Win Probabilities

How was that for a painful walk down recent-memory lane?

You'll notice that the Caps were (or, depending on how these probabilities are calculated, perhaps it's more accurate to say "a generic team was"), at some point in each of these games, above 70% likely to win. (The exact numbers were 72.4%, 79.0%, 72.7%, 87.0% and 90.9%, respectively.) Losing any one of these games was, pretty much definitionally, unlikely.

And yet, they lost all five.

But what are the odds that they'd actually lose all five? Based on the highest probability of winning in each game and multiplying the flip sides (a.k.a. the probability of losing), we get .276*.210*.273*.130*.091 for total of [drumroll]... .0002, or .02%. That's not two percent or two-tenths of a percent, but two-hundredths of a percent, or one in 5,000.

These Caps are indeed special.

We've talked a lot about how unlucky the Caps have been lately and how it's not all luck either (far from it). But the Caps have hit a perfect storm of bad... circumstances, and it's produced exceedingly unlikely and, in this case, unfavorable results. Silver linings abound, though, and maybe fortune will turn starting tomorrow night - at this point you'd be hard-pressed to find a Caps fan who would be disappointed to see their team get dominated by the Blackhawks, yet escape with an "undeserved" two points. They deserve as much.